Mindfulness could be a viable approach for treating female sexual dysfunction, suggests a recent study in Sexual Medicine Reviews.
Sexual problems for women can be approached in different ways. For example, medications like flibanserin can address desire issues like hypoactive sexual desire disorder. But some women don’t respond to these treatments.
In particular, mindfulness might be used to address psychological factors. For example, many women find that distraction and anxiety interfere with their sexual function. They may have poor body image and criticize themselves and their performance during sexual activity.
Mindfulness aims to put focus on what is happening in the present without judgment, with negative thoughts and feelings accepted as temporary. For example, women might concentrate on the sensations of physical touch and their own arousal rather than their worries about their attractiveness to their partner.
Past research has found mindfulness to be helpful for women who have had gynecologic cancer as well as those who have suffered childhood sexual abuse. However, not much is known about why mindfulness has been beneficial. This study examined this angle through a review of four studies published within the last five years that discuss mindfulness and sexual outcomes.
The researchers noted that trait mindfulness and decentering were important mechanisms. Trait mindfulness may help women cope with the distraction and anxiety that can accompany sexual dysfunction. And decentering – knowing that such distractions and anxieties will pass – may also help.
The authors acknowledged several limitations. They explained that three of the four studies involved university students and did not involve patients seeking treatment for sexual problems. None of the studies had control groups. In addition, the studies took place in North America. The authors explained that results could be quite different in other parts of the world, especially since mindfulness is a more common practice in eastern cultures.
“Based on the currently limited literature, mindfulness has the potential to be an important treatment for sexual problems, at least in women,” the researchers concluded.
“Preliminary studies investigating the mechanisms behind this effect have found that mindfulness acts by addressing the psychological barriers to satisfying sexual experiences,” they added.
They also recommended further study on potential mediators such as age and relationship satisfaction. Future research should also focus on diverse populations and women who are specifically seeking help for a sexual issue.
Sexual Medicine Reviews
Arora, Nikita, BHSc and Lori A. Brotto, PhD
“How Does Paying Attention Improve Sexual Functioning in Women? A Review of Mechanisms”
(Full-text. Published online: February 24, 2017)